Monday, January 19, 2015

Éowyn: The White Lady of Rohan

*This essay is a part of my 'Tolkien and Gender' series. You must read my Intro before reading this essay. This essay is what inspired me to write the series.*

When discussing Tolkien, gender, and feminism, very few characters are as talked about as Éowyn. Understanding her character arc is crucial to understanding the systematic damnation of sexism that is present in the majority of Tolkien's works.

Without further ado, let's start!

Before we go to the actual chapters, it's important to learn what we can from the Appendix, so that we can understand Éowyn better.
Appendix A, II The House of Eorl
Many lords and warriors, and many fair and valiant women, are named in the songs of Rohan that still remember the North.
Éowyn will call herself a shieldmaiden, and valiant means “very brave or courageous.” So it looks like that while female warriors are uncommon in Rohan, they are remembered.
Her son Éomer was born in 2991, and her daughter Éowyn in 2995. At that time Sauron had arisen again, and the shadow of Mordor reached out to Rohan. Orcs began to raid in the eastern regions and slay or steal horses. Others also came down from the Misty Mountains, many being great uruks in the service of Saruman, though it was long before that was suspected. Éomund's chief lay in the east marches; and he was a great lover of horses and hater of Orcs. If news came of a raid he would often ride out against them in hot anger, unwarily and with few men. Thus it came about that he was slain in 3002; for he pursued a small band to the borders of the Emyn Muil, and was there surprised by a strong force that lay in wait in the rocks. 
Not long after Théodwyn took sick and died to the great grief of the king. Her children he took into his house, calling them son and daughter. He had only one child of his own, Théodred his son, then twenty-four years old; for the queen Elfhild had died in childbirth, and Théoden did not wed again. Éomer and Éowyn grew up at Edoras and saw the dark shadow fall on the halls of Théoden. Éomer was like his fathers before him; but Éowyn was slender and tall, with a grace and pride that came to her out of the South from Morwen of Lossarnach, whom the Rohirrim had called Steelsheen.
This passage tells us a lot about the characters, and how Éowyn grew up. For her entire life raids and battles have happened frequently. Her father is a great warrior, but rash, and gets himself killed when she is seven years old. Her mother soon dies afterwards.

So Éowyn is taken in by her uncle, who is a warrior king. Her aunt is dead, and her cousin is 17 years older than her. He is also a warrior. Éomer becomes a warrior, and is given their father's charge at a young age (in 3017). Éowyn is, in short, raised entirely by warriors and has no female relatives or role models.

Book 3, Chapter 6: The King of the Golden Hall
Behind his chair stood a woman clad in white. 
The woman hastened to the king's side, taking his arm, and with faltering steps the old man came down from the dais and paced softly through the hall. 
“Send your guards down to the stairs' foot,” said Gandalf. “And you, lady, leave him a while with me. I will care for him.” 
“Go, Éowyn sister-daughter!” said the old king. “The time for fear is past.” 
The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Éowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone.

Lots to go over here, as we meet Éowyn for the first time. We also see something of the way she's used to being treated; both Gandalf and Théoden dismiss her, saying the time for fear is passed, but that she still may not join them.

Grave means “serious and solemn.” Her look is sad and thoughtful as she is dismissed; the fact that she “slowly” walks away and looks back shows us that she does not want to leave.

She looks at Théoden with “cool pity.” Cool means “marked by indifference, disdain, or dislike; unfriendly or unresponsive.” However, the way Tolkien almost always uses the word 'pity' is not how we generally use it today. Instead, he uses it like we use the word compassion. Compassion means “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.”

We have an inherent contradiction here. We err if we go with our usual definition of pity, for then Éowyn's later actions do not make sense – we will see the great amount of love she has for her uncle. And yet here, here she loves him but she is is unresponsive, cut off emotionally from him and everyone else.

We are told that she is beautiful, “but strong she seemed and stern as steel.” But means “contrary to expectation.” Seem means “to give the impression of being; appear.” Éowyn appears to be strong and stern of steel. Appears, as in that is not reality. She is “fair and cold,” beautiful and frozen. Pale means “lacking brightness of color.” She is “not yet come to womanhood,” she has not come into her own. Her soul is cold and dull, she has not yet bloomed into her full potential.

Some 'feminists' have taken it to mean that Tolkien implies 'a lack of development' because of the word 'but', that a woman is not allowed to be strong or stern (which means “(of a person or their manner) serious and unrelenting, esp. in the assertion of authority and exercise of discipline”). However, it is directly connected to her inherent sadness and frozen soul.

We also find out what draws Éowyn to Aragorn. He has 'a hidden power that she felt', he arrives with Gandalf to free her uncle, and he is a future king. He is a powerful man who will ascend to greatness.
“Nay, Éomer, you do not fully understand the mind of Master Wormtounge,” said Gandalf, turning his piercing glance upon him. “He is bold and cunning. Even now he plays a game with peril and wins a throw. Hours of my precious time he has wasted already. Down, snake!” he said suddenly in a terrible voice. “Down on your belly! How long is it since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price? When all the men were dead, you were to pick your share of the treasure, and take the woman you desire? Too long have you watched her under your eyelids and haunted her steps.” 
Éomer grasped his sword. “That I knew already,” he muttered. “For that reason I would have slain him before, forgetting the law of the hall. But there are other reasons.” He stepped forward, but Gandalf stayed him with his hand. 
“Éowyn is safe now,” he said.
So now we learn that not only has Éowyn had to watch helplessly as her uncle's heath deteriorates and her country is ravaged by war, she has also been stalked by one of the most powerful men in Rohan – the man that seems to control her uncle.
At the kings board sat Éomer and the four guests, and there also waiting upon the king was the lady Éowyn. 
The king now rose, and at once Éowyn came forward bearing wine. “Ferthu Théoden hál!” she said. “Receive now this cup and drink in happy hour. Health be with thee at thy going and coming!” 
Théoden drank from the cup, and she then proffered it to the guests. As she stood before Aragorn she paused suddenly and looked upon him, and her eyes where shining. And he looked down upon her fair face and smiled; but as he took the cup, his hand met hers, and he knew that she trembled at the touch. “Hail Aragorn son of Arathorn!” she said. “Hail Lady of Rohan!” he answered, but his face now was troubled and he did not smile.
Éowyn looks at Aragorn, her eyes shining. When their hands touch, she trembles. This powerful, handsome man who is destined for greatness; he could free her from her cage and her miserable life.

Aragorn perceives her desire for him, and is troubled by it. He does not wish for it.
“But Éomer I cannot spare, nor would he stay,” said the king; “and he is the last of that House.” 
I said not Éomer,” answered Háma. “And he is not the last. There is Éowyn, daughter of Éomund, his sister. She is fearless and high-hearted. All love her. Let her be as lord to the Eorlingas, while we are gone.” 
“It shall be so,” said Théoden. “Let the heralds announce to the folk that the Lady Éowyn will lead them!” 
Then the king sat upon a seat before his doors, and Éowyn knelt before him and received from him a sword and a fair corslet. “Farewell sister-daughter!” he said. “Dark is the hour, yet maybe we shall return to the Golden Hall. But in Dunharrow the people may long defend themselves, and if the battle go ill, thither will come all who escape.” 
“Speak not so!” she answered. “A year shall I endure for every day that passes until your return.” But as she spoke her eyes went to Aragorn who stood nearby. 
“The king shall come again,” he said. “Fear not! Not West but East does our doom await us.”
We get another sign of Éowyn's life, how she is overlooked and dismissed by those she loves. Her uncle does not even remember her at this crucial moment, when she has been the one caring for him. It takes a man Théoden respects for him to even consider leaving Éowyn in charge.

Háma says that Éowyn is “fearless and high-hearted.” Fearless means “without fear; brave.” High-hearted means “full of courage or nobleness.” Éowyn is fearless and full of courage, readily able to lead her people.

Théoden sees the truth in Háma's words, and decrees that Éowyn will rule in his absence. He gives her a sword and a beautiful 'corslet' – a breastplate and backpiece.

Éowyn speaks of how much she will miss Théoden, but he is not the one she looks at. Éowyn looks at Aragorn, the one she admires, the one she wishes to stand by.

Seeing her gaze, Aragorn tells her not to fear, and that her uncle will return. He responds to her words, and not her unspoken attraction to him.
Aragorn looked back as they passed towards the gate. Alone Éowyn stood before the doors of the house at the stair's head; the sword was set upright before her, and her hands were laid upon the hilt. She was clad now in mail and shone like silver in the sun.
Lots of imagery in this passage. Éowyn is standing at the top of the stairs, the sword upright in front of her, with her hands on the hilt. She is wearing her armor, and has an inherently aggressive stance – she has her hands on her sword, ready to fight; she is at the top of the stairs, showing her position of leadership; and she stands outside the king's house, like a guard.

And yet, she is alone. All the 'true' warriors have gone off to battle, leaving her behind.
Far over the plain Éowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.
Even more imagery of Éowyn here, and it confirms what I just said. The 'glitter' of spears is the only light in this passage. Éowyn is alone, alone before an empty house; with the glitter, the light, getting farther and farther away. Her loneliness and isolation is profound.
Book 5, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company 
The Lady Éowyn greeted them and was glad of their coming; for no mightier men had she seen than the Dúnedain and the fair sons of Elrond; but on Aragorn most of all her eyes rested. And when they sat at supper with her, they talked together, and she heard all that had passed since Théoden rode away, concerning which only hasty tidings had yet reached her; and when she heard of the battle in Helm's Deep and the great slaughter of their foes, and of the charge of Théoden and his knights, then her eyes shone.
Mighty means “having or showing great power, skill, strength, or force.” Éowyn is glad to see them because she has not seen any greater warriors than the sons of Elrond and the Dúnedain, and she's taken in by the greatest of them all – their leader, Aragorn.

We are told Éowyn's eyes only started to shine when they told her about the battle, and their victory. This leads to something that will become even more clearer – Éowyn's fixation on glory.

Her childhood clearly comes in here; she was raised by warriors with a warrior mindset. Éowyn has been told her entire life that honor and glory can only come from the battlefield, and she has watched while her brother and cousin gained that honor and glory. It is clear that while she was taught to use a sword, she was never let into battle. She was told that all worth and pride comes from the battlefield, at the same time she was being told that she could never join in. This has lead to a great, internal conflict that she cannot resolve.

This, her struggle with toxic masculinity, will be the greatest battle she will ever face.
But at last she said: “Lords, you are weary and shall now go to your beds with such ease as can be contrived in haste. But tomorrow fairer housing shall be found for you.” 
But Aragorn said: “Nay, lady, be not troubled for us! If we may lie here tonight and break our fast tomorrow, it will be enough. For I ride on an errand most urgent, and with the first light of morning we must go.” 
She smiled on him and said: “Then it was kindly done, lord, to ride so many miles out of your way to bring tidings to Éowyn, and to speak with her in her exile.”
Exile means “a prolonged, usually enforced absence from one's home or country; banishment.”

Éowyn only says the words associated with her duty – she clearly takes joy in hearing the tale of battle, but all she says is that she will prepare lodging for them. What she says to Aragorn is also enlightening. 'It was extremely considerate of you to go so far out of your way just to bring me comfort in my banishment.'

Exile. Banishment. Éowyn does not see her job of leading the people as worthy, but as the perfect way for her family to exclude her from truly worthy actions. She feels the personal slight of being kept from battle.

Éowyn also hopes that Aragorn is there because of her, that he is thinking of her – that he has come all that way just to talk to her. This is completely understandable, as he is the first man we have met who has treated her with respect and kindness. Éowyn has idealized Aragorn as her escape from the torment she has and continues to live in.
“Indeed no man would count such a journey wasted,” said Aragorn; “and yet, lady, I could not have come hither, if it were not that the road which I must take leads me to Dunharrow.” 
And she answered as one that likes not what is said: “Then, lord, you are astray; for out of Harrowdale no road runs east or south; and you had best return as you came.” 
“Nay, lady,” said he, “I am not astray; for I walked in this land here you were born to grace it. There is a road out of this valley, and that road I shall take. Tomorrow I shall ride by the Paths of the Dead.” 
Then she stared at him as one that is stricken, and her face blanched, and for long she spoke no more, while all sat silent. “But, Aragorn,” she said at last, “is it then your errand to seek death? For that is all you will find on that road. They do not suffer the living to pass.”
Éowyn's reaction is quite severe, and for good reason. She is horrified and silent until she can finally bring herself to speak. It is noteworthy that she calls Aragorn by his name – she has dropped social formalities in her shock, essentially saying, 'why?'. Éowyn, like all her people, only believes death can be found on the Paths of the Dead.
“They may suffer me to pass,” said Aragorn; “but at the least I will adventure it. No other road will serve.” 
“But this is madness,” she said. “For here are men of renown and prowess, whom you should not take into the shadows, but should lead to war, where men are needed. I beg you to remain and ride with my brother; for then all our hearts will be gladdened, and our hope be the brighter.”
Renown means “the quality of being widely honored and acclaimed; fame.” Prowess means “superior strength, courage, or daring, especially in battle.”

'But this is insane. Here are great warriors who should go to war, where they are needed. If you and them stay and go to battle, we will all be happy, and we will have a better chance of winning.'
“It is not madness, lady,” he answered; “for I go on a path appointed. But those who follow me do so of their free will; and if they wish now to remain and ride with the Rohirrim, they may do so. But I shall take the Paths of the Dead, alone, if needs be.” 
Then they said no more, and they ate in silence; but her eyes were ever upon Aragorn, and the others saw that she was in great torment of mind. At length they arose, and took their leave of the Lady, and thanked her for her care, and went to their rest.
Aragorn corrects her, saying it is not insane, and that while it's not the obvious path with flashing swords, it is still important. It is his fate, and there is something worthwhile in it.

Torment means “great physical pain or mental anguish.” Éowyn is greatly distressed by his words.
But as Aragorn came to the booth where he was to lodge with Legolas and Gimli, and his companions had gone in, there came the Lady Éowyn after him and called to him. He turned and saw her as a glimmer in the night, for she was clad in white; but her eyes were on fire.
More imagery. Éowyn looks like a candle, with her white dress and her fiery eyes. Her mind is made up, and she is determined to persevere.
“Aragorn,” she said, “why will you go on this deadly road?” 
“Because I must,” he said. “Only so can I see any hope of doing my part in the war against Sauron. I do not choose paths of peril, Éowyn. Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.”
Éowyn is frank, using Aragorn's given name and asking him directly. She has no desire to play games.

We learn something very important about Aragorn here. He has no desire for battle – for peril. He does not desire glory, but the chance to live peacefully. This is one of Tolkien's main themes; which we will be talking about later.
For a while she was silent, as if pondering what this might mean. Then suddenly she laid her hand on his arm. “You are a stern lord and resolute,” she said; “and thus do men win renown.” She paused. “Lord,” she said, “if you must go, then let me ride in your following. For I am weary of skulking in the hills, and wish to face peril and battle.”
Éowyn processes that, but she doesn't really understand it. She does not understand Aragorn.

Stern means “(of a person or their manner) serious and unrelenting, esp. in the assertion of authority and exercise of discipline.” Resolute means “firm in purpose or belief.” Éowyn believes that only by being uncompromising and inflexible can people be honored.

This is toxic power (defined in F&M), the bedrock of toxic masculinity.

Peril means “exposure to the risk of harm or loss.” Éowyn states outright that she desires the inherent destructiveness of battle. To skulk means “to lie in hiding, as out of cowardice or bad conscience.” Éowyn believes that staying with her people and out of battle is a cowardly thing to do, that only participating in battle is worthwhile.
“Your duty is with your people,” he answered. 
“Too often have I heard of duty,” she cried. “But am I not of the House of Eorl, a shieldmaiden and not a dry-nurse? I have waited on faltering feet long enough. Since they falter no longer, it seems, may I not now spend my life as I will?”
'Can't I do what I want?' is essentially what Éowyn is asking.

Éowyn tells us that it is her royal heritage that has allowed her to become a shieldmaiden in title. This fits with her being chosen and accepted as the one in charge. She also insults and degrades her fellow women, as well as her past duties, by saying that she is above such feminine roles because she is royalty.

I cannot emphasize this enough. It is crucial to understand that Éowyn is explicitly perpetuating sexism and classism here.
“Few may do that with honor,” he answered. “But as for you, lady: did you not accept the charge to govern the people until their lord's return? If you had not been chosen, then some marshal or captain would have been set in the same place, and he could not ride away from his charge, were he weary of it or no.”
Honor means “high respect, as that shown for special merit; esteem.” 'Few people can do whatever they want and still be respected.' Éowyn accepted responsibility for her people. Note what Aragorn says – some marshal or captain, not 'just a woman', would have been chosen. Someone with the skills and knowledge needed to lead and protect the people – skills that Éowyn has.
“Shall I always be chosen?” she said bitterly. “Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?”
Bitter means “marked by resentment or cynicism.” Renown means “the quality of being widely honored and acclaimed; fame.” Éowyn, quite clearly, resents being left behind while the men find glory in battle.
“A time may come soon,” said he, “when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defense of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”
Valor means “courage and boldness, as in battle; bravery.” Renown means “the quality of being widely honored and acclaimed; fame.” Valiant means “marked by bravery or courage.”

'We may all die out there, against the enemy. Courage will be needed without glory and fame, because none of us will survive the last attack. The deed of going down fighting to protect your home is not made any less brave or noble because it is unpraised.'
And she answered: “All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honor, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.”
This part is crucial because Éowyn completely misunderstands what Aragorn is saying.

'All you're saying is that as a woman I have no part outside of the house. But after the men have received honor and glory from death in battle, it's alright for me to die an ignoble death, because the men won't need me to serve them anymore.'

That is the complete opposite of what Aragorn said, and functions on a crucial assumption that Aragorn did not make. That all worth and pride comes from winning fame on the battlefield, while anything else is inferior.

The scary part of it is that a lot of 'feminist' readers agree with her. They say that Éowyn is voicing 'her desire for self-creation, independence, and freedom from her rigidly predetermined role' and that 'Aragorn is just reminding her of her obligation to the patriarchy.'

No, they're not. Éowyn's still fixated on toxic masculinity and Aragorn is saying that she's mistaken.

I don't blame her for her fixation on toxic masculinity. All she really wants is to be treated with respect, to know that she's worthwhile, that she's an equal. We saw earlier that while her family loves her, they dismiss her and treat her like she's an afterthought. She thinks that worth and respect can only come from the battlefield, as that's how she's been raised. Raised to believe that honor and glory can only come from the battlefield, and that she could never join in. That she could never be worthy. This, her culture's sexism, is why she insults and degrades her fellow women and her feminine duties, because she sees her status as royalty as her only saving grace (which is classism).
“What do you fear, lady?” he asked.
“A cage,” she said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
Éowyn's greatest fear is 'to stray locked up until I die and forget or dismiss the chance to gain honor and glory.'
“And yet you counseled me not to adventure on the road that I had chosen, because it is perilous?” 
“So may one counsel another,” she said. “Yet I do not bid you flee from peril, but to ride to battle where your sword may win renown and victory. I would not see a thing that is high and excellent cast away needlessly.”
Éowyn's saying that she doesn't want to see Aragorn's talent wasted, and that the only way he can succeed is to ride in an obvious charge with his sword flashing.

Aragorn, however, knows differently. He knows that he has to stay true to himself and take the unaccepted road. And by staying true to himself, he will ensure that they win the battle.
“Nor would I,” he said. “Therefore I say to you, lady: Stay! For you have no errand to the South.” 
“Neither have those others who go with thee. They go only because they would not be parted from thee – because they love thee.” Then she turned and vanished into the night.
A little quick note on word usage. Appendix F, II On Translation says,
In one or two places an attempt has been made to hint at these distinctions by an inconsistent use of thou. Since this pronoun is now unusual and archaic it is employed mainly to represent the use of ceremonious language; but a change from you to thou, thee is sometimes meant to show, there being no other means of doing this, a significant change from the deferential, or between men and women normal, forms to the familiar.
And HME 12 says,
Where thou, thee, thy, appears it is used mainly to mark a use of the familiar form where that was no usual. For instance its use by Denethor in his last madness to Gandalf, and by the Messenger of Sauron, was in both cases intended to be contemptuous. But elsewhere it is occasionally used to indicate a deliberate change to a form of affection or endearment.
(For more on all of this, see this essay)

So we know that Aragorn has been using the polite and socially acceptable 'you' while Éowyn switches to the intimate 'thee'. This is understandable since she is confessing her love for him.
His company was all mounted, and he was about to leap into the saddle, when the Lady Éowyn came to bid them farewell. She was clad as a Rider and girt with a sword. In her hand she bore a cup, and she set it to her lips and drank a little, wishing them good speed; and then she gave the cup to Aragorn, and he drank, and he said: “Farewell, Lady of Rohan! I drink to the fortunes of your House, and of you, and of all your people. Say to your brother: beyond the shadows we may meet again!” 
Then it seemed to Gimli and Legolas who were nearby that she wept, and in one so stern and proud that seemed the more grievous. But she said: “Aragorn, wilt thou go?”
Éowyn is still calling Aragorn by his name and using the intimate pronouns. She is trying to get linguistically closer to Aragorn.

She is also distraught. Her only hope to escape the torment she has been and continues to live in is leaving. We're told that it's even more painful for Legolas and Gimli to see her weep because she is usually proud and inflexible, a dull mask to keep the world from seeing her hidden anguish.
“I will,” he said. 
“Then wilt thou not let me ride with this company, as I have asked?” 
“I will not, lady,” he said. “For that I could not grant without leave of the king and of your brother; and they will not return until tomorrow. But I count now every hour, indeed every minute. Farewell!”
Aragorn, on the other hand, is keeping Éowyn linguistically at arm's length. He will not take her with him, even if he wanted to. He knows that, according to her culture, he doesn't have the right.
Then she fell on her knees, saying: “I beg thee!” 
“Nay, lady,” he said, and taking her by the hand he raised her. Then he kissed her hand, and sprang into the saddle, and rode away, and did not look back; and only those who knew him well and were near to him saw the pain that he bore.
We'll talk about Aragorn later. Right now I want to talk about Éowyn. She “fell on her knees.” To bring someone to their knees means “to force someone into submission or compliance.” Submit means “to yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.”

The text makes it clear that Éowyn is completely powerless. She submits herself to Aragorn, begging him to free her. She believes that this is her last chance of ever getting out. Her last chance to prove that she is just as worthwhile as any of the men. In her mind, Aragorn can either free her or destroy her.

He destroys her. He destroys her at the same time he raises her from her position of submission and gives her a kiss in respect.
But Éowyn stood still as a figure carven in stone, her hands clenched at her sides, and she watched them until they passed into the shadows under the black Dwimorberg, the Haunted Mountain, in which was the Door of the Dead. When they were lost to view, she turned, stumbling as one that is blind, and went back to her lodging.
More poignant imagery here. She is still, like a figure carved from stone. Her hands are closed tightly, and she falteringly walks back. She gives the figure of a dead woman, one who has had everything taken from her.
Book 5, Chapter 3: The Muster of Rohan
From this side a rider now came out to meet them, and they turned from the road. 
As they drew near Merry saw that the rider was a woman with long braided hair gleaming in the twilight, yet she wore a helm and was clad to the waist like a warrior and girded with a sword.
Yet means “despite this; nevertheless.” It is not used 'to show that a woman can't be strong'. The 'yet' is directly connected to Éowyn's inner conflict of who she is.
“Hail, Lord of the Mark!” she cried. “My heart is glad at your returning.” 
“And you, Éowyn,” said Théoden, “is all well with you?” 
“All is well,” she answered; yet it seemed to Merry that her voice belied her, and he would have thought that she had been weeping, if that could be believed of one so stern of face. “All is well. It was a weary road for the people to take, torn suddenly from their homes. There were hard words, for it is long since war has driven us from the green fields; but there have been no evil deeds. All is now ordered, as you see. And your lodging is prepared for you; for I have had full tidings of you and knew the hour of your coming.”
Belie means “to show to be untrue; contradict.” Stern means “(of a person or their manner) serious and unrelenting, esp. in the assertion of authority and exercise of discipline.”

Éowyn's voice betrays her, they can tell all is not well. Merry can barely believe that she would cry – he has only seen her cold, dull mask. Her anguish has turned to despair, and she cannot keep it completely hidden.

This part also shows that Éowyn is quite capable of leading her people – she dealt with angry and upset people, calmed things down, and got them all ordered; she also made sure that everything was ready for her uncle's return.
“So Aragorn has come then,” said Éomer. “Is he still here?” 
“No, he is gone,” said Éowyn turning away and looking at the mountains against the East and South. 
“Whither did he go?” asked Éomer. 
“I do not know,” she answered. “He came at night, and rode away yestermorn, ere the Sun had climbed over the mountain-tops. He is gone.” 
“You are grieved, daughter,” said Théoden. “What has happened? Tell me, did he speak of that road?” He pointed away along the darkening lines of stones towards the Dwimorberg. “Of the Paths of the Dead?” 
“Yes, lord,” said Éowyn. “And he has passed into the shadow from which none have returned. I could not dissuade him. He is gone.” 
In the inner pavilion was a small space, curtained off with broidered hangings, and strewn with skins; and there at a small table sat Théoden with Éomer and Éowyn, and Dúnhere, lord of Harrowdale. 
“Yet it is said in Harrowdale,” said Éowyn in a low voice, “that in the moonless nights but a little while ago a great host in strange array passed by. Whence they came non knew, but they went up the stony road and vanished into the hill, as if they went to keep a tryst.”
Éowyn contributes little to the discussion, only speaking when no one else has the information. She is cut off from them all. Théoden, on the other hand, shows his love for her by calling her 'daughter'.
“Greatly changed he seemed to me since I saw him first in the king's house,” said Éowyn: “grimmer, older. Fey I thought him, and the one whom the Dead call.” 
“Maybe he has called,” said Théoden; “and my heart tells me that I shall not see him again. Yet he is a kingly man of high destiny. And take comfort in this, daughter, since comfort you seem to need in your grief for this guest. It is said [cut].”
Fey means “doomed, fated to die, marked by a foreboding of death or calamity.” (For more on the usage of the word 'fey' see this thread)

Éowyn remarks that Aragorn seemed greatly changed, overtaken by his path of certain death. Théoden notices some of Éowyn's anguish (indeed, Merry saw it as well), but he attributes it to Aragorn's dangerous path. He does not see the depth of it.
The king turned to Merry. “I am going to war, Master Meriadoc,” he said. “In a little while I shall take the road. I release you from my service, but not from my friendship. You shall abide here, and if you will, you shall serve the Lady Éowyn, who will govern the folk in my stead.”
Éowyn has once again been left in charge of the people.
Then Éowyn rose up. “Come now, Meriadoc!” she said. “I will show you the gear that I have prepared for you.” They went out together. “This request only did Aragorn make to me,” said Éowyn, as they passed among the tents, “that you should be armed for battle. I have granted it, as I could. For my heart tells me that you will need such gear ere the end.” 
Now she lead Merry to a booth among the lodges of the king's guard; and there an armorer brought out to her a small helm, and a round shield, and other gear. 
“No mail have we to fit you,” said Éowyn, “nor any time for the forging of such a hauberk; but here is also a stout jerkin of leather, a belt, and a knife. A sword you have.” 
Merry bowed, and the lady showed him the shield, which was like the shield that had been given to Gimli, and it bore on it the device of the white horse. “Take all these things,” she said, “and bear them to good fortune! Farewell now, Master Meriadoc! Yet maybe we shall meet again, you and I.”
Éowyn is already planning to ride. However, she makes sure Merry is armed for battle; both because Aragorn asked for it, and because her intuition says to do so.
But when they had come almost to the end of the line one looked up glancing keenly at the hobbit. A young man, Merry thought as he returned the glance, less in height and girth than most. He caught the glint of clear grey eyes; and then he shivered, for it came suddenly to him that it was the face of one without hope who goes in search of death.
Keen means “having or marked by intellectual quickness and acuity.”

Éowyn glances at Merry, his protest to being left behind and away from Théoden makes an impression on her.

One without hope who goes in search of death. Éowyn's despair has taken over; Aragorn, her last hope of escaping the torment and isolation she lives in, rejected her. In her mind, he plainly said she was not worth anything. She believes she will never be free.

So, thinking she will never be free, she decides to die on the battlefield, going down fighting like her father and cousin. Then, she believes, she will have both peace and glory – she will finally have done something worthwhile, and she will be free from her world of torment.
When the Full Muster was made in Harrowdale, Théoden called a council of the marshals and captains at once, and before he took a meal; although it is not described in any account, because Merry was not present. When the “line of journey” and order of battle considered as far as possible determined, Éomer remained in this position, riding with the King (as commander of the leading éored, the King’s Company) and acting as his chief counsellor. Elfhelm became a Marshal of the Mark, leading the first éored of the Muster of the East-mark. Grimbold had the function, but not the title, of the Third Marshal, and commanded the Muster of the West-mark. Grimbold was a lesser marshal of the Riders of West-mark in Théodred’s command, and was given this position, as a man of valor in both the battles at the Fords, because Erkenbrand was an older man, and the King felt the need of one of dignity and authority to leave behind in command of such forces as could be spared for the defense of Rohan. - UT, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix

Though Éowyn was left as the ruler once more, Théoden also left Erkenbrand behind to command the remaining warriors. She did not completely abandon her people.
Unnoticed a Rider came up and spoke softly in the hobbit's ear. 
Where will wants not, a way opens, so we say,” he whispered; “and so I have found myself.” Merry looked up and saw that it was the young Rider whom he had noticed in the morning. “You wish to go whither the Lord of the Mark goes: I see it in your face.” 
“I do,” said Merry. 
“Then you shall go with me,” said the Rider. “I will bear you before me, under my cloak until we are far afield, and this darkness is yet darker. Such good will should not be denied. Say no more to any man, but come!” 
“Thank you indeed!” said Merry. “Thank you, sir, though I do not know your name.” 
“Do you not?” said the Rider softly. “Then call me Dernhelm.” 
Thus it came to pass that when the king set out, before Dernhelm sat Meriadoc the hobbit, and the great grey steed Windfola made little of the burden; for Dernhelm was less in weight than many man, though lithe and well-knit in frame.
Éowyn notices that Merry, like her, does not want to leave Théoden. She recognizes a part of herself in him, and selflessly offers to take him with her. She did not have to do this, Merry has no idea who she is, and as untrained as he is he could easily be a hinderance. This is an act of selflessness and compassion.

Dernhelm means “hidden protector.” Éowyn means to go to her death protecting Théoden. She is not proud, she has no sense of personal worth.
Book 5, Chapter 5: The Ride of the Rohirrim 
There seemed to be some understanding between Dernhelm and Elfhelm, the Marshal who commanded the éored in which they were riding. He and all his men ignored Merry and pretended not to hear if he spoke. He might have been just another bag that Dernhelm was carrying. Dernhelm was no comfort: he never spoke to anyone. 
Elfhelm's éored came next; and now Merry noticed that Dernhelm had left his place and in the darkness was moving steadily forward, until at last he was riding just in rear of the king's guard. 
Dernhelm kept close to the king, though Elfhelm's company was away on the right.
We do not know when Elfhelm found out that Éowyn was with them, but he must of sensed her despair.

Again, Éowyn will not leave Théoden. She wishes to die in defense of the one she loves as a father, her uncle and king.

Book 5, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields 
But Théoden was not utterly forsaken. The knights of his house lay slain about him, or else mastered by the madness of their steeds were borne far away. Yet one stood there still: Dernhelm the young, faithful beyond fear; and he wept, for he had loved his lord as a father. Right through the charge Merry had been borne unharmed behind him, until the Shadow came; and then Windfola had thrown them in his terror, and now ran wild upon the plain. Merry crawled on all fours like a dazed beast, and such a horror was on him that he was blind and sick.
Faithful beyond fear. Éowyn's unconditional love for her uncle triumphs over the fear, as she weeps in her grief.
“King's man! King's man!” his heart cried within him. “You must stay by him. As a father you shall be to me, you said.” But his will made no answer, and his body shook. He dared not open his eyes or look up. 
Then out of the blackness in his mind he thought that he heard Dernhelm speaking; yet now the voice seemed strange, recalling some other voice that he had known. 
“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!” 
A cold voice answered: “Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.” 
A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will, but I will hinder it, if I may.”
Éowyn knows that there's not much she can do, against the Witch-king. She knows she doesn't have the power. That will not stop her from protecting her uncle to her last breath.
“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!” 
Then Merry heard of all the sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”
Smite means “to strike with a heavy blow or blows.” It does not matter what creature he is, Éowyn will not yield. She will protect her uncle no matter what, she is not afraid of the Witch-king.
The winged creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt. Very amazement for a moment conquered Merry's fear. He opened his eyes and the blackness lifted from them. There some paces from him sat the great beast, and all seemed dark about it, and above it loomed the Nazgûl Lord like a shadow of despair. A little to the left facing them stood she whom he had called Dernhelm. But the helm of her secrecy had fallen from her, and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders. Her eyes grey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears were on her cheek. A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy's eyes.
Fell means “cruel or fierce.” Éowyn's unrelenting strength is there, while she cries. She has never been more certain of anything, than of protecting Théoden.

Note that 'yet' is only used to contrast her tears from her eyes. For the first time, the two parts of Éowyn, the warrior and the woman, are united in protecting Théoden.
Éowyn it was, and Dernhelm also. For into Merry's mind flashed the memory of the face that he saw at the riding from Dunharrow: the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope. Pity filled his heart and great wonder, and suddenly the slow-kindled courage of his race awoke. He clenched his hand. She should not die, so fair, so desperate! At least she should not die alone, unaided.
The first line backs up what I just said about both parts of her being united for the first time.

Merry has compassion and wonder at the strength of Éowyn. He knows she has no hope of living, and yet she stands firm against the Witch-king. And thus he decides to act, because of his selflessness and compassion.
The face of their enemy was not turned towards him, but still he hardly dared to move, dreading lest the deadly eyes should fall on him. Slowly, slowly he began to crawl aside; but the Black Captain, in doubt and malice intent upon the woman before him, heeded him no more than a worm in the mud. 
Suddenly the great beast beat its hideous wings, and the wind of them was foul. Again it leaped into the air, and then swiftly fell down upon Éowyn, shrieking, striking with beak and claw. 
Still she did not blench: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise.
She is beautiful, and she is strong.
Out of the wreck rose the Black Rider, tall and threatening, towering above her. With a cry of hatred that stung the very ears like venom he let fall his mace. Her shield was shivered in many pieces, and her arm was broken; she stumbled to her knees. He bent over her like a cloud, and his eyes glittered; he raised his mace to kill. 
But suddenly he too stumbled forward with a cry of bitter pain, and his stroke went wide, driving into the ground. Merry's sword had stabbed him from behind, shearing through the black mantle, and passing up beneath the hauberk had pierced the sinew behind his mighty knee. 
“Éowyn! Éowyn!” cried Merry. Then tottering, struggling up, with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke sparkling into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Éowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. But lo! the mantle and hauberk were empty. Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.
The fact that Éowyn is not a man, is what gives her the ability to defeat the Witch-king. The passages, both this one and the one before, are filled with her ability and triumph.

Éowyn's act of selflessness saved her life. Only by her kindness and compassion is she given the chance to strike the final blow against Sauron's right hand and captain.

All of this is done out of her love for Théoden. It is not done 'on behalf of the patriarchy' but out of love and selflessness.
And there stood Meriadoc the hobbit in the midst of the slain, blinking like an owl in the daylight, for tears blinded him; and through a mist he looked on Éowyn's fair head, as she lay and did not move; and he looked on the face of the king, fallen in the midst of his glory. 
Presently he spoke again. “Where is Éomer? For my eyes darken, and I would see him ere I go. He must be king after me. And I would send word to Éowyn. She, she would not have me leave her, and now I shall not see her again, dearer than daughter.” 
“Lord, lord,” began Merry brokenly, “she is-”; but at that moment there was a great clamor, and all about them horns and trumpets were blowing. 
“Hail, King of the Mark!” he said. “Ride now to victory! Bid Éowyn farewell!” And so he died, and knew not that Éowyn lay near him.
Théoden truly loves Éowyn like a daughter. His last words are of her.
Then he suddenly he beheld his sister Éowyn as she lay, and he knew her. He stood a moment as a man who pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart; and then his face went deathly white, and a cold fury rose in him, so that all speech failed him for a while.
Éomer loves Éowyn with all his heart. He is devastated.
Men now raised the king, and laying cloaks upon spear-truncheons they made shift to bear him away towards the City; and others lifted Éowyn gently up and bore her after him. 
And rising he looked then on Éowyn and was amazed. “Surely, here is a woman?” he said. “Have even the women of the Rohirrim come to war in our need?” 
“Nay! One only,” they answered. “The Lady Éowyn is she, sister of Éomer, and we knew naught of her riding until this hour, and greatly we rue it.” 
Then the prince seeing her beauty, though her face was pale and cold, touched her hand as he bent to look more closely on her. “Men of Rohan!” he cried. “Are there no leeches among you? She is hurt, to the death maybe, but I deem that she yet lives.” And he held the bright-burnished vambrace that was upon his arm before her cold lips, and behold! a little mist was laid on it hardly to be seen. 
“Haste now is needed,” he said, and he sent one riding back swiftly to the City to bring aid.
Imrahil realizes that Éowyn is still alive, and sends for help.
Book 5, Chapter 8: The Houses of Healing 
Gently they laid Éowyn upon soft pillows; but the king's body they covered with a great cloth of gold, and they bore torches about him, and their flames, pale in the sunlight, were fluttered by the wind. 
So Théoden and Éowyn came to the City of Gondor, and all who saw them bared their heads and bowed; and they passed through the ash and fume of the burned circle, and went on and up along the streets of stone.
Éowyn has gotten her glory.
So at last Faramir and Éowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well. 
And it seemed to the tenders of the sick that on the Halfling and on the Lady of Rohan this malady lay heavily. Still at whiles as the morning wore away they would speak, murmuring in their dreams; and the watchers listened to all that they said, hoping perhaps to learn something that would help them to understand their hurts. But soon they began to fall down into the darkness, and as the sun turned west a grey shadow crept over their faces.
But Éomer said: “Where is the Lady Éowyn, my sister; for surely she should be lying beside the king, and in no less honor? Where have they bestowed her?” 
And Imrahil said: “But the Lady Éowyn was yet living when they bore her hither. Did you not know?” 
Then hope unlooked-for came so suddenly to Éomer's heart, and with it the bite of care and fear renewed, that he said no more, but turned and went swiftly from the hall; and the Prince followed him.
Again we are told of the honor Éowyn has gotten. Éomer rushes to her side when he learns that she still lives.
Aragorn went first to Faramir, and then to the Lady Éowyn, and last to Merry. When he had looked on the faces of the sick and seen their hurts he sighed. “Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me,” he said.
But Aragorn answered: “Nay, for these three, and most soon for Faramir, time is running out. All speed is needed.”
But Aragorn came to Éowyn, and he said: “Here there is a grievous hurt and a heavy blow. The arm that was broken has been tended with due skill, and it will mend in time, if she has the strength to live. It is the shield-arm that is maimed; but the chief evil comes through the sword-arm. In that there now seems no life, although it is unbroken. 
Alas! For she was pitted against a foe beyond the strength of her mind or body. And those who will take a weapon to such an enemy must be sterner than steel, if the very shock shall not destroy them. It was an evil doom that set her in his path. For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens. And yet I know not how I should speak of her. When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turn its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die? Her malady begins far back before this day, does it not, Éomer?”
Lots to go over here.

Éowyn's sword-arm being hurt is not 'because taking up the sword was her most serious offense against her conventional female role' or that 'she is nearly destroyed by the darkness that is brought upon her by her audacity in striking a male foe so obviously superior to her.'

Nor is Aragorn 'referring to the implied inherent physical and mental inferiority of a woman' when he says the Witch-king was more powerful than her.

There is nothing in the text to support the arm statement. Her battle with the Witch-king is filled with her triumph. She will later be called “Lady of the Shield-arm,” (Appendix A) and has clearly gained honor from all.

The second sentence in the second paragraph makes it clear that Aragorn is not demeaning Éowyn, but instead saying that she is “sterner than steel”, as she was not destroyed by the shock. Only Gandalf, a Maia, is said to be the Witch-king's equal, and we never know for sure.

I would like to point out that all the men of Gondor and Rohan fled from the Witch-king, several times. Faramir and Merry lie close to death because of the Black Breath as well. That does not make them weak, instead it shows that Tolkien is in no way slighting Éowyn here. The Witch-king is beyond any mortal. And yet she has the strength to kill him anyway.

With Tolkien “fair” is usually connected to inner beauty and goodness as well as outer beauty – remember that Frodo thought that Aragorn looked foul and felt fair when they met (see more here).

So Aragorn says that she is beautiful and good, like a queen. That is not an insult, a daughter of queens is just as strong as a daughter of kings; he's not retracting his earlier statement. Femininity and queens are not inferior to masculinity and kings. To say so is sexism. 

Aragorn saw her mask of strength, and he also saw Éowyn's true state of loneliness and sorrow.

Malady means “any unwholesome or desperate condition.” Aragorn is saying that Éowyn's state of sorrow and loneliness began years before, that something has been wrong for a while.
“I marvel that you should ask me, lord,” he answered. “For I hold you blameless in this matter, as in all else; yet I knew not that Éowyn, my sister, was touched by any frost, until she first looked on you. Care and dread she had, and shared with me, in the days of Wormtounge and the king's bewitchment; and she tended the king in growing fear. But that did not bring her to this pass!”
Like we saw earlier, Éomer loves Éowyn, but he does not understand her. He still dismisses her reality.
“My friend,” said Gandalf, “you had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonored dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on. 
Think you that Wormtounge had poison only for Théoden's ears? Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs? Have you not heard those words before? Saruman spoke them, the teacher of Wormtounge. Though I do not doubt that Wormtounge at home wrapped their meaning in terms more cunning. My lord, if your sister's love for you, and her will still bent to her duty, had not restrained her lips, you might have heard even such things as these escape them. But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”
Gandalf comes out and states what I've been saying. Éowyn was held back from battle because she's female, while she was being taught that all worth and pride comes from toxic masculinity.

'dishonored dotage', 'ignoble'. Éowyn saw what was happening to her uncle, his decline into a powerless and feeble state. It pained her greatly, both because she loved him and because he lost all honor. Éowyn didn't think her part was worth anything, that is was dishonorable to wait on Théoden instead of being out in battle like her brother and cousin.

Wormtounge preyed on her inner feelings of worthlessness. Not only did he stalk and sexually harass Éowyn, he emotionally abused her. He told her that she was worth nothing, that her family dismissed her out of scorn for her ignoble role. That honor, glory, and worth were beyond her.

Éowyn's love for her uncle and her brother kept her going, kept her doing her duty and staying silent. But it festered and grew in her, the resentment and despair, until she reached her breaking point. Until she could not take it any more.
Then Éomer was silent, and looked on his sister, as if pondering anew all the days of their past life together.
Éomer clearly did not mean to dismiss his sister, he just never truly understood what she was going through. What he was given as a male was so different from what she was given.
But Aragorn said: “I saw also what you saw, Éomer. Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned. Sorrow and pity have followed me ever since I left her desperate in Dunharrow and rode to the Paths of the Dead; and no fear upon that way was so present as the fear for what might befall her. And yet, Éomer, I say to you that she loves you more truly than me; for you she loves and knows; but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan.
Éowyn didn't long to die because her crush rejected her. Éowyn longed to die because she was at the end of her rope when Aragorn waltzed in, and she idealized him as her last chance of ever escaping her torment. It wasn't his personal rejection of her as a woman, but his (in her view) saying that as a woman her place was to die an ignoble death in the house.

Now, we know that was not at all what Aragorn said. But Éowyn, precious Éowyn, has been indoctrinated with the mindset of toxic masculinity for her entire life. Her family subconsciously and unknowingly did it, and Wormtounge preyed upon it, driving her to despair.

We learn Aragorn's feelings here, as well. He genuinely cares about her. He has been afraid for her, and felt sorrow and compassion for her. He loves her, he's just not in love with her.

The word fair is once again used to mean moral goodness - “Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so [good] and brave that cannot be returned.” The sentence doesn't flow right if we translate fair as outer beauty – Aragorn is talking about her thoughts and feelings all throughout this paragraph.

One last point: Aragorn, Éomer, and Gandalf do not 'define her rebellion as her own personal problem as they place the burden on her instead of accepting that her actions might have been a reaction to the patriarchy they imposed on her; by doing so they are not forced to look at their own actions.' They realize all of the nuances of Éowyn's situation, and the many ways of the Patriarchy.
I have, maybe, the power to heal her body, and to recall her from the dark valley. But to what she will awake: hope, or forgetfulness, or despair, I do not know. And if to despair, then she will die, unless other healing comes which I cannot bring. Alas! for her deeds have set her among the queens of great renown.”
'Her deeds have set her among the queens of great renown.' Here is the proof of what I said, that associating her with queens is not a retraction of her strength.

It's crucial that while Aragorn can heal her body, he cannot truly heal her. Just like he could not truly free her.
Then Aragorn stooped and looked in her face, and it was indeed white as a lily, cold as frost, and hard as graven stone. But he bent and kissed her on the brow, and called her softly, saying: 
“Éowyn Éomund's daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!” 
She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it, and her right arm lying cold and nerveless on the coverlet. 
Then, whether Aragorn had indeed some forgotten power of Westernesse, or whether it was but his words of the Lady Éowyn that wrought on them, as the sweet influence of the herb stole about the chamber it seemed to those who stood by that a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not before been breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam. 
Awake, Éowyn, Lady of Rohan!” said Aragorn again, and he took her right hand in his and felt it warm with life returning. “Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!” Then he laid her hand in Éomer's and stepped away. “Call her!” he said, and he passed silently from the chamber. 
“Éowyn, Éowyn!” cried Éowyn amid his tears. But she opened her eyes and said: 
“Éomer! What joy is this? For they said that you were slain. Nay, but that was only the dark voices in my dream. How long have I been dreaming?”
Aragorn leaves. He heals her body most of the way, but Éomer is the one to call her back. It's a poignant reminder that Aragorn is not the answer to Éowyn's problems.
"Not long, my sister,” said Éomer. “But think no more on it!” 
“I am strangely weary,” she said. “I must rest a little. But tell me, what of the Lord of the Mark? Alas! Do not tell me that that was a dream; for I know that it was not. He is dead as he foresaw.” 
“He is dead,” said Éomer, “but he bade me say farewell to Éowyn, dearer than daughter. He lies now in great honor in the Citadel of Gondor.” 
“That is grievous,” she said. “And yet it is good beyond all that I dared hope in the dark days, when it seemed that the House of Eorl was sunk in honor less than any shepherd's cot. And what of the king's esquire, the Halfling? Éomer, you shall make him a knight of the Riddermark, for he is valiant!”
We're back to the honor and glory. Théoden dying in battle with honor was more than Éowyn hoped, when he was powerless and feeble. And Éowyn's thoughts are not of herself, but of the ones she loves. Merry's honor is more important to her than herself.
"He lies nearby in this House, and I will go to him,” said Gandalf. “Éomer shall stay here for a while. But do not speak yet of war or woe, until you are made whole again. Great gladness is it to see you wake again to health and hope, so valiant a lady!”
“To health?” said Éowyn. “It may be so. At least while there is an empty saddle of some fallen Rider that I can fill, and there are deeds to do. But to hope? I do not know.”
Gandalf praises Éowyn and mentions the honor and renown she has gotten. However, this does not make her happy. Éowyn expected to die, she wanted to die. And now she's alive. 'I'll live while there's a war and I can fight, but I have no hope for afterwards.' Her despair is still there.
“The Lady Éowyn,” said Aragorn, “will wish soon to rise and depart; but she should not be permitted to do so, if you can in any way restrain her, until at least ten days be passed.” 
Book 6, Chapter 5: The Steward and the King 
When the Captains were but two days gone, the Lady Éowyn bade the women who tended her to bring her raiment, and she would not be gainsaid, but rose; and when they had clothed her and set her arm in a sling of linen, she went to the Warden of the Houses of Healing. 
“Sir,” she said, “I am in great unrest, and I cannot lie longer in sloth.” 
Lady,” he answered, “you are not yet healed, and I was commanded to tend you with especial care. You should not have risen from your bed for seven days yet, or so I was bidden. I beg you to go back.” 
“I am healed,” she said, “healed at least in body, save my left arm only, and that is at ease. But I shall sicken anew, if there is naught that I can do. Are there no tidings of war? The women can tell me nothing.” 
“There are no tidings,” said the Warden, “save that the Lords have ridden to Morgul Vale; and men say that the new captain out of the North is their chief. A great lord is that, and a healer; and it is a thing passing strange to me that the healing hand should also wield the sword. It is not thus in Gondor now, though once it was so, if old tales be true. But for long years we healers have only sought to patch the rents made by the men of swords. Though we should still have enough to do without them: the world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.”
Sloth means “aversion to work or exertion; laziness;.” Éowyn refuses to stay in bed, and confronts the Warden. She is determined to be set free, and believes that taking the time to heal is dishonorable.

The women can tell her no tidings, because there are no tidings. It is not that 'the war lies outside the the interest and comprehension of the conventionally feminine human nurses who serve as healers.' I am sure they are just as anxious for news. Also, we have no idea what those women are like, so we cannot know how feminine they are.
“It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden,” answered Éowyn. “And those who have not swords can still die upon them. Would you have the folk of Gondor gather you herbs only, when the Dark Lord gathers armies? And it is not always good to be healed in body. Nor is it always evil to die in battle, even in bitter pain. Were I permitted, in this dark hour I would choose the latter.”
Éowyn is right about how war is bred. Her despair also has not abated, she believes that dying an honorable death is the only way to be free of her torment. Her inner torment is so painful she would choose the intense physical pain of death in battle.
The Warden looked at her. Tall she stood there, her eyes bright in her white face, her hand clenched as she turned and gazed out of his window that opened to the East. He sighed and shook his head. After a pause she turned to him again.
More imagery. Éowyn's hands are clenched again, showing her resentment and despair. Her face is pale, her proud and inflexible mask is back on. Her eyes are bright as she looks to the East; it's her only hope left. She had reached her breaking point, and was unwillingly pulled back from death. She cannot take any more, she is still past her breaking point.
“It there no deed to do?” she said. “Who commands in this City?” 
I do not rightly know,” he answered. “Such things are not my care. There is a marshal over the Riders of Rohan; and the Lord Húrin, I am told, commands the men of Gondor. But the Lord Faramir is by right the Steward of the City.” 
“Where can I find him?” 
“In this house, lady. He was sorely hurt, but is now set again on the way to health. But I do not know -” 
“Will you not bring me to him? Then you will know.”
Éowyn, not liking the answer of the Warden, demands to see the Steward. She is determined to be set free to find death in battle. It is a final act of desperation, she doesn't have the emotional strength to continue fighting anymore.
The Lord Faramir was walking alone in the garden of the Houses of Healing, and the sunlight warmed him, and he felt life run new in his veins; but his heart was heavy, and he looked out over the walls eastward. And coming, the Warden spoke his name, and he turned and saw the Lady Éowyn of Rohan; and he was moved with pity, for he saw that she was hurt, and his clear sight perceived her sorrow and unrest.
Remember, the word pity is used like the word compassion. Faramir is depressed by his father's and brother's deaths, and focusing on the march to the Black Gate that went without him. Then he sees Éowyn, and has compassion for her deep hurt and unrest.
“My lord,” said the Warden, “here is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan. She rode with the king and was sorely hurt, and dwells now in my keeping. But she is not content, and she wishes to speak to the Steward of the City.” 
“Do not misunderstand him, lord,” said Éowyn. “It is not lack of care that grieves me. No houses could be fairer, for those who desire to be healed. But I cannot lie in sloth, idle, caged. I looked for death in battle. But I have not died, and battle still goes on.”
'I have no desire to be healed. I cannot lie in laziness, doing nothing, being caged. I wanted an honorable death, and that was taken from me. As long as battle goes on, I still have the chance for an honorable death.'
At a sign from Faramir, the Warden bowed and departed. “What would you have me do, lady?” said Faramir. “I also am a prisoner of the healers.” He looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart. And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.
Being a tender and compassionate man, the fact that Éowyn's beauty is surrounded by her grief touches Faramir deeply. Tender means “characterized by or expressing gentle emotions; loving.”

Éowyn looks at Faramir, and sees the gentleness in his eyes. She did not expect it, despite it she can see he is a great warrior, for she “was bred among men of war.”

This confirms my earlier point about how she was raised in a warrior household with a warrior mindset.
“What do you wish?” he said again. “If it lies in my power, I will do it.” 
“I would have you command this Warden, and bid him let me go,” she said; but though her words were still proud, her heart faltered, and for the first time she doubted herself. She guessed that this tall man, both stern and gentle, might think her merely wayward, like a child that has not the firmness of mind to go on with a dull task to the end.
'Feminists' say, 'Faramir's condescending gaze makes Éowyn weak.'

In truth, that is toxic power.

Éowyn has been wearing her mask, believing that it, that being uncompromising and inflexible, is the only way to get worth and be accepted. And yet here is a man, who is both a great warrior and kind and gentle. He is an anomaly to all she has been taught.

For the first time, Éowyn doubts what she knows. She has been so sure that being stern and cold, insisting on battle, would be the only way she could ever gain worth. Faramir's gentleness makes her question that, and she is scared Faramir will dismiss her as a wayward child, instead of hearing and acknowledging her. She is scared, and vulnerable. She has gone past her breaking point and cannot hide from her true emotions any longer.

There is no 'condescension' in Faramir's eyes, he does not think himself above her, nor does he see her as a wayward child. Éowyn is afraid that he will think that, but it's not what he thinks. He has only tenderness and compassion for her, seeing how gravely hurt she is.
“I myself am in the Warden's keeping,” answered Faramir. “Nor have I yet taken up my authority in the City. But had I done so, I should still listen to his counsel, and should not cross his will in matters of his craft, unless in some great need.” 
“But I do not desire healing,” she said. “I wish to ride to war like my brother Éomer, or better like Théoden the king, for he died and has both honor and peace.”
Éowyn is open and frank. She wants to die, and finally have peace.
“It is too late, lady, to follow the Captains, even if you had the strength,” said Faramir. “But death in battle may come to us all yet, willing or unwilling. You will be better prepared to face it in your own manner, if while there is still time you do as the Healer commanded. You and I, we must endure with patience the hours of waiting.” 
She did not answer, but as he looked at her it seemed to him that something in her softened, as though a bitter frost were yielding at the first faint passage of spring. A tear sprang in her eye and fell down her cheek, like a glistening rain-drop. Her proud head drooped a little. Then quietly, more as if speaking to herself than to him: “But my window does not look eastward.” Her voice was now that of a maiden young and sad.
Faramir is frank and honest, it is too late to follow the Captains. Like Aragorn, he mentions that battle could very easily come to her where she is. The best thing to do would be to listen to the healers.

Éowyn's mask is falling, she doesn't have the ability to keep it up anymore. She lets her true emotions show; her head drooping, a little crying, and speaks the root of her desire. She wants to look eastward, she wants to know if something changes, if the hopes of the free peoples succeed.

Faramir does not cause this, she does not answer him and 'speaks to herself'. It is an inner change where she lets her mask go. She is young, and she is sad.
Faramir smiled, though his heart was filled with pity. “Your window does not look eastward?” he said. “That can be amended. In this I will command the Warden. If you will stay in this house in our care, lady, and take your rest, then you shall walk in this garden in the sun, as you will; and you shall look east, whither all our hopes have gone. And here you will find me, walking and waiting, and also looking east. It would ease my care, if you would speak to me, or walk at whiles with me.”
Faramir is still filled with compassion for her, and gives her the freedom to move about the Houses as she will.
Then she raised her head and looked him in the eyes again; and a color came in her pale face. “How should I ease your care, my lord?” she said. “And I do not desire the speech of living men.”
'How can I ease your burden? I don't want to talk, or interact, or live.' Color comes into her face, interaction with another human being starts to heal her, even if she doesn't want it.
“Would you have my plain answer?” he said. 
“I would.” 
“Then, Éowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful. In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and bright, and maidens fairer still; but neither flower nor lady have I seen till now in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful. It may be that only a few days are left ere darkness falls upon our world, and when it comes I hope to face it steadily; but it would ease my heart, if while the Sun yet shines, I could see you still. For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.”
'You are beautiful, Éowyn. I hope to be strong when the Shadow comes, but until then being with you would comfort me, because we both have come back from being under the Shadow.'
“Alas, not me, lord!” she said. “Shadow lies on me still. Look not to me for healing! I am a shieldmaiden and my hand is ungentle. But I thank you for this at least, that I need not keep to my chamber. I will walk abroad by the grace of the Steward of the City.” And she did him a courtesy and walked back to the house. But Faramir for a long while walked alone in the garden, and his glance now strayed rather to the house than to the house than to the eastward walls.
Éowyn says, “my hand is ungentle.” We are back to the inherent conflict in her, and the (supposed) anomaly of Faramir. Éowyn believes that you can only be worthy and succeed by being unrelenting and harsh. Nevertheless, she is polite when excusing herself.

Faramir is fascinated and moved by Éowyn, and he now focuses on her instead of their possible doom.
When he returned to his chamber he called for the Warden, and heard all that he could tell of the Lady of Rohan. 
“But I doubt not, lord,” said the Warden, “that you would learn more from the Halfling that is with us; for he was in the riding of the king, and with the Lady at the end, they say.” 
And so Merry was sent to Faramir, and while that day lasted they talked long together, and Faramir learned much, more even than Merry put into words; and he thought that he understood now something of the grief and unrest of Éowyn of Rohan. And in the fair evening Faramir and Merry walked in the garden, but she did not come.
Being exceptionally insightful, Faramir learns about Éowyn's problems. He does not know it all, but he can see some of it. He probably learns of her lack of self-esteem, her crush on Aragorn, and (obviously) her wish to die. Struck by the weight of his father's and brother's deaths, here is someone he can help. His compassion probably turns to deep respect, and sadness for her sorrow. That's the kind, loving person Faramir is.
But in the morning, as Faramir came from the Houses, he saw her, as she stood upon the walls; and she was clad all in white, and gleamed in the sun. And he called to her, and she came down, and they walked on the grass or sat under a green tree together, now in silence, now in speech. And each day after they did likewise. And the Warden looking from his window was glad in heart, for he was a healer, and his care was lightened; and certain it was that, heavy as was the dread and foreboding of those days upon the hearts of men, still these two of his charges prospered and grew daily in strength.
Faramir is perfectly content getting to know Éowyn. They spend a lot of time together, and the other's companionship and acceptance starts to heal both of them.
And so the fifth day came since the Lady Éowyn went first to Faramir; and they stood now together once more upon the walls of the City and looked out. No tidings had yet come, and all hearts were darkened. The weather, too, was bright no longer. It was cold. A wind that had sprung up in the night was blowing now keenly from the North, and it was rising; but the lands about looked grey and drear. 
They were clad in warm raiment and heavy cloaks, and over all the Lady Éowyn wore a great blue mantle of the color of deep summer-night, and it was set with silver stars about hem and throat. Faramir had sent for this robe and had wrapped it about her; and he thought that she looked fair and queenly indeed as she stood there at his side. The mantle was wrought for his mother, Finduilas of Amroth, who died untimely, and was to him but a memory of loveliness in far days and of his first grief; and her robe seemed to him raiment fitting for the beauty and sadness of Éowyn.
Faramir has fallen for Éowyn, and he gives her his mother's mantle. He still sees her sorrow.
But she now shivered beneath the starry mantle, and she looked northward, above the grey hither lands, into the eye of the cold wind where far away the sky was hard and clear. 
“What do you look for, Éowyn?” said Faramir. 
“Does not the Black Gate lie yonder?” said she. “And must he not now be come thither? It is seven days since he rode away.”
Éowyn, although she has started to heal, is focused on the Black Gate and the army's departure. It is not clear whether she is talking about Aragorn or Éomer.
“Seven days,” said Faramir. “But think not ill of me, if I say to you: they have brought me both a joy and a pain that I never thought to know. Joy to see you; but pain, because now the fear and doubt of this evil time are grown dark indeed. Éowyn, I would not have this world end now, or lose so soon what I have found.”
'Do not think badly of me for saying I feel both a pain and joy I never thought to know. Joy for being in love with and knowing you, and pain because the world might be at its end and I might lose you.'
“Lose what you have found, lord?” she answered; but she looked at him gravely and her eyes were kind. “I know not what in these days you have found that you could lose. But come, my friend, let us not speak of it! Let us not speak at all! I stand upon some dreadful brink, and it is utterly dark in the abyss before my feet, but whether there is any light behind me I cannot tell. For I cannot turn yet. I wait for some stroke of doom.”
Éowyn's eyes are kind, and she calls Faramir a friend. She cares for him, and subconsciously she has fallen for him.

The light represents life, and the darkness the death she sought. She still cannot see a future for herself.
“Yes, we wait for the stroke of doom,” said Faramir. And they said no more; and it seemed to them as they stood upon the wall that the wind died, and the light failed, and the Sun was bleared, and all sounds in the City or in the lands about were hushed: neither wind, nor voice, nor bird-call, nor rustle of leaf, nor their own breath could be heard; the very beating of their hearts was stilled. Time halted. 
And as they stood so, their hands met and clasped, though they did not know it. And still they waited for they knew not what. Then presently it seemed to them that above the ridges of the distant mountains another vast mountain of darkness rose, towering up like a wave that should engulf the world, and about it lightnings flickered; and then a tremor ran through the earth, and they felt the walls of the City quiver. A sound like a sigh went up from all the lands about them; and their hearts beat suddenly again. 
“It reminds me of Númenor,” said Faramir, and wondered to hear himself speak. 
“Of Númenor?” said Éowyn. 
“Yes,” said Faramir, “of the land of Westernesse that foundered, of the great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it.” 
“Then you think that the Darkness is coming?” said Éowyn. “Darkness Unescapable?” And suddenly she drew close to him. 
“No,” said Faramir, looking into her face. “It was but a picture in the mind. I do not know what is happening. The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days. But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny. Éowyn, Éowyn, White Lady of Rohan, in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” And he stooped and kissed her brow.
They don't know they're holding hands, it's a natural and subconscious move. Éowyn moves closer to Faramir, letting herself seek comfort. In his joy, Faramir gives her an affectionate kiss on the head.
And so they stood on the walls of the City of Gondor, and a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air. And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of Anduin sone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell. 
Merry was summoned and rode away with the wains that took store of goods to Osgiliath and thence by ship to Cair Andros; but Faramir did not go, for now being healed he took upon him his authority and the Stewardship, although it was only for a little while, and his duty was to prepare for the one who should replace him. 
And Éowyn did not go, though her brother sent word begging her to come to the field of Cormallen. And Faramir wondered at this, but he saw her seldom, being busy with many matters; and she dwelt still in the Houses of Healing and walked alone in the garden, and her face grew pale again, and it seemed that in all the City she only was ailing and sorrowful. And the Warden of the Houses was troubled, and he spoke to Faramir.
Éowyn got better when spending time with Faramir, but she still has not worked through her great internal conflict of worth. She believed it could only come from toxic masculinity, but then she met Faramir, who is an anomaly to all she was taught. He noticed her, accepted her, and treated her with respect and kindness. And then he suddenly disappeared and stopped spending time with her. Her insecurities and her fears of worthlessness have come back with a vengeance.
Then Faramir came and sought her, and once more they stood on the walls together; and he said to her: “Éowyn, why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in in Cormallen beyond Cair Andros, where your brother awaits you?” 
And she said: “Do you not know?” 
But he answered: “Two reasons there may be, but which is true, I do not know.” 
And she said: “I do not wish to play at riddles. Speak plainer!” 
“Then if you will have it so, lady,” he said: “you do not go, because only your brother called for you, and to look on the Lord Aragorn, Elendil's heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy. Or because I do not go, and you desire still to be near me. And maybe for both these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them. Éowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?”
Unsure about whether Éowyn loves him or not, Faramir goes to her when he learns she is not well. She can either break his heart, or give him joy. Faramir has picked up on the great internal conflict in Éowyn; Aragorn as the symbol of all she was taught and Faramir as the symbol of true happiness.
“I wished to be loved by another,” she answered. “But I desire no man's pity.” 
“That I know,” he said. “You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, the greatest that now is. But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle. Look at me, Éowyn!”
Faramir says what Aragorn has said, and what I have said. Éowyn saw marrying Aragorn as a way for her to escape the torment she lived in, not because she loved him for himself. Faramir does not quite yet grasp the depth of Éowyn's anguish, but he has the general idea; it was not so much as a desire to have nothing than it was that she could not see a way out.
And Éowyn looked at Faramir long and steadily; and Faramir said: “Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn! But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Éowyn, do you not love me?”
Éowyn looks, truly looks, at Faramir.

'Do not view compassion and kindness as inferior! But I do not offer you my compassion, I offer you my love. I have never felt for anyone like I do you. Do you love me?'
Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her. 
“I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,” she said; “and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.” And again she looked at Faramir. “No longer do I desire to be queen,” she said.
This is probably the most crucial part in Éowyn's story. It is not that her heart changes, but that she finally understands and accepts herself.

This is also the part where the greatest misunderstandings and resentment from 'feminists' comes in. They say that Tolkien is showing that 'the oppressed woman is a threat, she is unnatural and uncomfortable, and she must end up back in her proper place', that this is a 'regression', that 'she yields to repressive love.'

Regression means “relapse to a less perfect or developed state.” 'Feminist' M.J. Kramer refers to Éowyn as 'the warrior and the wimp.' Wimp means “a weak and cowardly or unadventurous person.” They dismiss Éowyn becoming a healer as 'a traditional woman's job'.

That is so far from being true, it's not even funny.

As Leanna Madill says, “Although others may read her resolve not to be a Rider nor practice typical masculine characteristics as a backward step for Eowyn, I would argue that it is only a step back if we, as readers, do not value healing, loving, and nurturing, traditionally feminine qualities.”

Insulting and damning Éowyn for her words here is sexism, plain and simple. It's also part of a fundamental misunderstanding of Tolkien's works. Why? Because Tolkien values and honors the feminine above the masculine. We see three of his central themes play out in this passage.

Tolkien shows how traditional masculine and worldly power of force (toxic masculinity) is dysfunctional, and that spiritual strength and love is the healthy answer. We see this play out again and again, particularly with Aragorn, Faramir, and Gandalf vs Denethor, Boromir, and Saruman. We especially see it with Galadriel, and her renunciation of the Ring.

Remember what Aragorn said earlier? He does not fight for pleasure. And it is not skill on the battlefield that shows him to be the rightful king and makes his people side with him. For “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” We see, like with the case of Beregond, how merciful Aragorn is as well. These are the things that make his people love him.

Similarly, Faramir says, “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.” It is Faramir's mercy that makes him let Frodo and Sam go, thus saving the Quest.

Pride vs humility is another central theme, as is fertility vs barrenness. We see this shown clearly through the Hobbits, who Tolkien shows to be the ideal state of living. The Hobbits are extremely humble, family-oriented, and take pleasure in nature and the simple things of life. The Shire is lush and fertile, while Mordor is a “barren wasteland.”

Now, let's go through what Éowyn says here.

I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying.

Vie means “compete eagerly with someone in order to do or achieve something.” Only means “solely or exclusively.” 'I will not be a warrior, competing with those who have won glory. I will take joy in songs of life as well as death.'

Éowyn was taught growing up that toxic masculinity was the only way to gain worth. That there was nothing more important in the world, then death and destruction. She has raged a war within herself to try and gain that worth. Having killed the Witch-king and meeting Faramir have shown her otherwise. Killing didn't make her happier or any more healed than before. Éowyn's charge is like Frodo's taking on the quest; it was done out of love, not pride. Her selflessness and compassion for Merry is what saved her life. Éowyn finally realizes that these are the things that truly matter.

Some people have thought this means she will never fight or wield a blade again. It does not. Éowyn says she will not be a shieldmaiden, a professional warrior. And yes, unlike Faramir and Aragorn, her gender role does not require it of her. However danger will always exist, and her ability to fight is part of who she is. As she said to the Warden, “those who have not swords can still die upon them.” It would be stupid of her to stop practicing fighting. Only now she will only be fighting when it is needed to protect, just like Faramir and Aragorn.

I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren. No longer do I desire to be queen.

Éowyn has moved from a desire for power and domination to a humble desire to serve and give back to the world while celebrating life. Before she saw her status as royalty as her only saving grace, and now she understands that it truly doesn't matter; and so she rejects the classism she once held on to. Her understanding of spiritual power deepens through her renunciation of worldly power.

She will heal instead of kill. Remember how greatly important healing is; the elven Rings; Sam's healing of the Shire; and the healing skills of Aragorn, Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel all play crucial roles in the text.
Then Faramir laughed merrily. “That is well,” he said; “for I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.”
It is clear that Faramir loves Éowyn as his equal. He will not tell her what to do, or order her about; he will let her shine, and accept her unconditionally, like he has.
“Then I must leave my own people, man of Gondor?” she said. “And would you have your proud folk say of you: 'There goes a lord who tamed a wild shieldmaiden of the North! Was there no woman of the race of Númenor to choose?'”
Éowyn is not saying that she is tamed, she's asking Faramir if he would be able to put up with the talk. Her lack of self-esteem shines through a little, as she essentially asks Faramir if he truly wants her, and all that she comes with.
“I would,” said Faramir. And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many. And many indeed saw them and the light that shone about them as they came down from the walls and went hand in hand to the Houses of Healing. 
And to the Warden of the Houses Faramir said: “Here is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.”
Faramir would. He wants her, and no one else.

“the light that shone about them” shows a picture of spiritual triumph, triumph that comes from embracing love and humility.
And the Warden said: “Then I release her from my charge and bid her farewell, and may she suffer never hurt nor sickness again. I commend her to the care of the Steward of the City, until her brother returns.” 
But Éowyn said: “Yet now that I have leave to depart, I would remain. For this House has become to me of all dwellings the most blessed.” And she remained there until King Éomer came.
I personally love this. The Warden tries to send Éowyn from his charge, to Faramir's. However, Éowyn's not playing. She doesn't want to go sit in the Citadel, and wait for Éomer. Instead, she says she's staying, and probably starts working with the healers on her training. Éowyn certainly isn't the type to sit idle, after all.

Faramir, on the other hand, is perfectly fine with whatever Éowyn wants to do.
May 8, 3019: Éomer and Éowyn depart [for] Rohan with the sons of Elrond. - Appendix B 
And Éowyn said to Faramir: “Now I must go back to my own land and look on it once again, and help my brother in his labor; but when one whom I long loved as father is laid at last to rest, I will return.”
Éowyn once again tells us of her love for Théoden, and promises Faramir she will return to him.
June 14, 3019: The sons of Elrond meet the escort and bring Arwen to Edoras. 
June 16, 3019: They set out for Gondor. - Appendix B

Éowyn almost certainly meets Arwen at this time.
August 7, 3019: The escort comes to Edoras.

August 10, 3019: Funeral of King Théoden. - Appendix B 
Book 6, Chapter 6: Many Partings 
And when the time came that in the custom of the Mark they should drink to the memory of the Kings, Éowyn Lady of Rohan came forth, golden as the sun and white as snow, and she bore a filled cup to Éomer. 
At the last when the feast drew to an end Éomer arose and said: “Now this is the funeral feast of Théoden the King; but I will speak ere we go of tidings of joy, for he would not grudge that I should do so, since he was ever a father to Éowyn my sister. Hear then all my guests, fair folk of many realms, such as have never before been gathered in this hall! Faramir, Steward of Gondor, and Prince of Ithilien, asks that Éowyn Lady of Rohan should be his wife, and she grants it full willing. Therefore they shall be trothplighted before you all.”
Éomer is clear that it is Éowyn who has made this decision, with him supporting her.
And Faramir and Éowyn stood forth and set hand in hand; and all there drank to them and were glad. “Thus,” said Éomer, “is the friendship of the Mark and of Gondor bound with a new bond, and the more do I rejoice.” 
“No niggard are you, Éomer,” said Aragorn, “to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm!” 
Then Éowyn looked in the eyes of Aragorn, and she said: “Wish me joy, my liege-lord and healer!” 
And he answered: “I have wished thee joy ever since first I saw thee. It heals my heart to see thee now in bliss.”
Éomer says he's happy for Éowyn, and Aragorn makes a joke. Some 'feminists' have said that Aragorn 'is referring to Éowyn as an object to be traded between men'. Aragorn is not saying that at all. Tolkien uses a very archaic style of writing, so we must translate it somewhat. Niggard means “stingy.” Stingy means “unwilling to spend or give.”

Remember, with Tolkien “fair” is usually connected to inner beauty and goodness as well as outer beauty, and that Éowyn has won great renown. 'You're very generous, Éomer, to let go of Rohan's greatest asset!' is what Aragorn is saying here, which shows that he holds Éowyn in high regard.

Éowyn then asks Aragorn to wish her joy. Aragorn uses the intimate and affectionate 'thee' for the first time. Again, he loves her, he's just not in love with her.
August 14, 3019: The guests take leave of King Éomer. - Appendix B 
When the feast was over, those who were to go took leave of King Éomer. Aragorn and his knights, and the people of Lórien and of Rivendell, made ready to ride; but Faramir and Imrahil remained at Edoras; and Arwen Evenstar remained also, and she said farewell to her brethren.
Faramir stays with Éowyn, while Aragorn travels with their friends to the Gap of Rohan (before returning to Edoras); prolonging their goodbye.
At the last before the guests set out Éomer and Éowyn came to Merry, and they said: 
“Farewell now, Meriadoc of the Shire and Holdwine of the Mark! Ride to good fortune, and ride back soon to our welcome!” 
And Éomer said: “Kings of old would have laden you with gifts that a wain could not bear for your deeds upon the fields of Mundburg; and yet you will take naught, you say, but the arms that were given to you. This I suffer, for indeed I have no gift that is worthy; but my sister begs you to receive this small thing, as a memorial of Dernhelm and of the horns of the Mark at the coming of the morning.” 
Then Éowyn gave to Merry an ancient horn, small but cunningly wrought all of fair silver with a baldric of green; and wrights had engraven upon it swift horsemen riding in a line that wound about it from the tip to the mouth; and there were set runes of great virtue. 
“This is an heirloom of our house,” said Éowyn. “It was made by the Dwarves, and came from the hoard of Scatha the Worm. Eorl the Young brought it from the North. He that blows it at need shall set fear in the hearts of his enemies and joy in the hearts of his friends, and they shall hear him and come to him.” 
Then Merry took the horn, for it could not be refused, and he kissed Éowyn's hand; and they embraced him, and so they parted for that time.
The horn was Éowyn's idea, to honor her comrade and friend. It shows how highly she thinks of him.
27. Faramir. [cut] He retained the title of Steward, and became Prince of the restored land of Ithilien, dwelling in the Hills of Emyn Arnen beside Anduin. He wedded in 3020 Éowyn sister of King Éomer of Rohan. - Peoples of Middle-earth, The Heirs of Elendil, The Ruling Stewards of Gondor 
It is said also that in 3020 Éowyn Éomund's daughter wedded Faramir, last Steward of Gondor and first Prince of Ithilien, in the king's house of Rohan. - Peoples of Middle-earth, The Tale of Years of the Third Age
Faramir and Éowyn marry in Edoras, in TA 3020. It is notable that they marry in Rohan and not in Gondor. This implies that Éowyn outranks Faramir in political status.
Faramir. The note in B is the same in substance as that in C, but adds that as the Prince of Ithilien he 'dwelt in a fair new house in the Hills of Emyn Arnen, whose gardens devised by the Elf Legolas were renowned.' - Peoples of Middle-earth, The Heirs of Elendil, The Stewards of Gondor
Faramir and Éowyn have a beautiful new home in Ithilien, close to Minas Tirith. At some point they become friends with Legolas.
Fo.A. 11: Meriadoc, called the Magnificent, becomes Master of Buckland. Great gifts are sent to him by King Éomer and the Lady Éowyn of Ithilien. 
Fo.A. 15: King Elessar rides north, and dwells for a while by Lake Evendim. He comes to the Brandywine Bridge, and there greets his friends. He gives the Star of the Dúnedain to Master Samwise, and Elanor is made a maid of honour to Queen Arwen. - Appendix B 
Sam: Mr. Meriadoc told me all this, for he has visited the Lady Éowyn in her white house. - Sauron Defeated, Part One: The End of the Third Age, The Epilogue
We know the epilogue takes place shortly before Aragorn and Arwen come north. These quotes tell us about Éowyn's continued close friendship with Merry.
Faramir's son Elboron likewise only appears in this genealogy. - Peoples of Middle-earth, The Heirs of Elendil, The House of Dol Amroth 
We are not given a birthdate for Elboron. Under his name in the family tree is “Second Prince”, meaning he succeeded Faramir as Prince of Ithilien.


So, here we are. I hope this has helped you see and understand better the amazing character of Éowyn, and how Tolkien's fundamental themes are reflected in her character arc. Long may she have joy, and may we always learn from and appreciate her.

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